Contemporary Chiles Rellenos
Serves: 6-8 | 30 Minute Prep Time | 60 Minutes to Cook
I’ll never forget watching my mom’s routine around 6 p.m. every weeknight. Juggling both a full-time career and large family, Mami came home from work and just “a few” after-school carpools for four children and headed straight to the kitchen. You didn’t have to ask “what’s for dinner?” because my organized mother typed and posted the week’s menu by the yellow rotary phone in the kitchen. While meals were traditionally Mexican and mostly heavy on meat and chicken per my father’s request, everything was fresh, and she made sure to include a veggie and/or salad. And, to keep us quiet before all was ready, she kept homemade corn tortillas and traditional guacamole on hand.
While her Joy of Cooking cookbook was grease-splattered and dog-eared, my mother didn’t have time for fancy or complicated, so if there were too many steps, we weren’t having it. I never watched her make tamales, enchiladas or chiles rellenos, because hey, tacos!
I’ve since learned to make tamales and enchiladas on my own, but chiles rellenos – stuffed poblano peppers – have always seemed like too much work for a weeknight.
My mother would be proud to know I recently took the plunge and stuffed my first poblano pepper. Typically filled with ground beef, dipped in batter and fried, or covered in a walnut cream sauce for a chile relleno en nogada, there are obviously a few dietary reasons I haven’t prepped or (confession) eaten the traditional Mexican version.
This modern, vegan, gluten-free, and much more nutritious take on the classic happened by chance after I spotted large poblano peppers at the grocery store. I originally thought about stuffing them with rice and beans, but came home and remembered I had plenty of leftover walnut taco meat after a deliciously vegan taco night. The lentil-walnut combo has been one of my favorite recipes to date – until now. In poblano peppers, this vegan taco “meat” is amazing. It’s delicious smell will also fool you. No joke – Sean walked into the kitchen and wondered why I was cooking chorizo.
To roast the poblano peppers, roast directly on the stovetop or a grill/grill pan until charred. Turn frequently so they char but stay firm tender. Place in a plastic bag to sweat, then remove the peel with your hands. Carefully cut a slit into the peeled pepper and remove the seeds.
Lentils are cooked until just al dente, then sautéed in onions, garlic, peppers. After tossing with a generous handful of cilantro and this yummy walnut taco meat, the mix is incredibly flavorful. It’s great eaten alone with a few cubes of avocado, on almond flour tortillas, and especially in poblano peppers.
To save time, try prepping one of the ingredients ahead of time – cook the lentils or make the walnut meat, or roast and peel the peppers. All do great on the fridge. The final assembly is very easy, so I usually make the ingredients ahead of time, then stuff the peppers and pop in the oven to heat before serving. Note: this recipe make a lot of taco meat (about 8 cups). I love the leftovers, but you can easily prep half the recipe.
When I used this mix for tacos, I topped with my favorite roasted tomato salsa, but this time, I used this delicious avocado crema and wow! This cream is delicious on everything from tacos to veggies, fish and chicken.
- First, prepare the walnut taco meat by pulsing the walnuts, soy sauce, paprika, cumin and garlic powder in a food processor until the texture is coarse and crumbly.
- After cooking the lentils, drain and set aside.
- Sauté the onion, garlic, and jalapeño peppers in the olive oil until softened and add the salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- Gently fold in the lentils and mix with the cilantro.
- Add the previously prepared walnut taco meat and adjust spices if necessary.
- Make a slit in the poblano peppers, and fill with the lentil walnut taco meat. Top with the avocado crema (see below).
- For the crema: Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on medium high until well blended. Adjust the water if necessary to achieve desired consistency.